Need to do a better job pushing our own health care stories

January 20, 2018

St Albans Messenger

By Paula Schramm

Thank you for Ellen Swartz’ excellent letter in the Tuesday, Jan.16 Messenger, describing the current state of health care in Vermont, and pointing out the need to get back on track with our Act 48 universal healthcare system. It reminds us that we don’t need to just sigh, and put up with the dysfunctional expensive mess of the health care non-system in this country, made even worse by Republicans in Congress trying to gut it in every way they can.

However, when I read the Friday, Jan.12 Bloomberg article,” Health care for free? Nope.”, my main feeling was “Just why did the Messenger print this ?” Was it just in order to use the inaccurate right-wing trope of “ Health care for free “, and then make fun of it?

Folks - no health care is “for free” - some systems pay for it through taxes, and some pay for it through insurance company premiums. The important question is :can there be a system where everyone has access to care when they need it ?

In truth, the USA is the only nation of the Democratic world that has totally “free” health care, i.e. no access to health care. My other thought was for all the travails currently plaguing the British National Health Service, they are still out-performing us for their entire population at much less cost!  

For example, they may “rank toward the bottom of the league in infant mortality “, but guess who’s got the worst infant mortality of industrialized countries? We do! And we spend up to twice the amount on health care of these other countries, who all have universal health care..... while more than 20 million of our citizens have no coverage, and many millions more have inadequate coverage. Tens of thousands of Americans not only suffer, but die each year from lack of access to health care.

I know there is real concern about the aging population of Vermont, and its effect on the affordability of life in Vermont in general, not to mention of a state-run universal health care system. This aspect of the story about the British system (i.e., “ Britain’s population is growing and getting older, and as medicine advances, treatments become more sophisticated and expensive”) may have been one reason for printing this article .

But the main point of the article is that they have a relatively “low-tax country” - the national health service has been chronically starved since changes made by the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher in the 1980’s. Conservative governments since Thatcher have also tried their best to destroy the NHS. That they could not is testimony to how the British people love the NHS and will punish the politicians who try to sell it off to the corporations. So, solutions to their problems are rather clear: spend more on health services, and make greater efforts to run things more efficiently. Even if they raise taxes to improve their health care system, it will still cost much less than ours, while still covering everyone.

How about more articles on the struggles and failings of our own health care system? That makes for a more useful discussion.

We could use inspirational stories on some of the best-run, most successful universal health care systems in other countries. Those stories are out there to tell, but don’t get covered much in American corporate-run media. How about a story on how well our Medicare works,? How
beloved it is by seniors, and how our conservative politicians have been unable to privatize it so far for fear of the wrath of seniors?

How about articles on the most innovative, out of- the-box efforts to provide better, more affordable care that different states and municipalities are trying out ? How about an interview of Vermont legislators and health care providers that are supporting an affordable “Universal Primary Care” bill that would provide, with no out-of-pocket costs, access for every Vermonter to the least expensive and most effective per-dollar health care possible, including mental health and addiction services? This could help keep some of our very needed young Vermonters alive.

There is a public hearing on access to primary care, at the State House in Montpelier on Tuesday, Jan.23 at 5:30pm - 8pm Senate and House Healthcare Committees will be taking testimony - come listen to people’s stories or sign up to tell your own.